My differences with the classification and ranking system isn't that the concept is defective but that the present implementation is faulty. Clearly the PSP disagrees and beyond that has a purpose in the way the system currently functions (and will purportedly function in the future.) My objection is two-fold; the current system is unnecessarily coercive and, in the end it won't work as intended. First thing I looked at was the points system (which isn't bad but in some respects is a blunt instrument.) It would be possible to add to the present calculations and it would be possible to put a different points system in place but how the numbers are figured isn't the real problem. And making that change wouldn't automatically fix things. So while I think there's some room for improvement there it's not a big deal.
As discussed in 'The Pear or the Pyramid' post one of my objections is demographic. I don't think you can re-make the ranks to reflect what you want them to look like without losing teams & players if what you want is 'unnatural'. It appears to me the idea is to remedy the dearth of upper division teams by redistributing the lower division teams in the sense that what we now consider D2 level talent becomes D1 and so on. Which also begs the question what happens to legitimate semi-pro talent when their division is populated by D1 talent? Or is that just a big mixer? It also presupposes the plan will work but that assumes there otherwise isn't enough real D1/semi-pro talent out there and it also assumes that there are no other causal factors inhibiting teams at the upper levels. My view is there are substantial causal factors inhibiting upper level team growth and dumbing down the divisions solves nothing. (And, of course there are plenty of D1/Pro (semi-pro) ranked players in the system who aren't competing so the issue isn't lack of players.)
I also think some of the changes made to the system this year tacitly acknowledge my views. The (marginal) relaxation of D3 classification rules and the inclusion of D3/D4 Intro are plainly moves made to encourage more D3 level participation both by "new" teams and by D3 teams that may have intentionally limited their participation in the past to avoid being moved up to D2. And as soon as you accept this premise it must follow that it applies, to one degree or another, across all the divisions. [This also begins to support the idea that coercive measures are in some respects counterproductive.]
Even if one were to argue that self-selection (teams choosing to participate) tends to skew the expected numbers towards a higher baseline of ability across the board all the limited numbers available suggest that doesn't really matter. A quick examination of where teams place themselves produces the (broadly) expected ratios, ie; they's mostly D2 & D3.
My objection to coercion is practical. It's simply not terribly effective and when coupled with a restructuring policy that will not work cannot achieve its intended result.
Another objection I have to strip mining the (presumed) upper ranks of the lower divisions is that it offers no continuity, no normative standard to be achieved or measured against (and understood) by the incoming teams. For example, if the top 4 teams are moved up the expectation is that the teams that finished 5 - 8 should be at or near the top the following season. This won't be universally true but it gives all the other teams a way of measuring their progress and/or ability.
There are two options in dealing with the present system; simply reign in its excesses and move up only those players/teams that must move in order to sustain the competitive balance of the division or, include a more flexible means for players to move down as well as up in order to be responsive to some of the current system's excesses. The first option is easiest but undercuts the PSP's restructuring of divisions plan. The second is harder to order by rule but can be done. (I don't know what impact it would have given the current system but in any system it should provide greater opportunity without disrupting competitive balance any more than occurs now with the allowances of limited upper division players on lower division rosters.)
For example, a simple change might be – every team that wins an event moves up and in addition any team that has more than one top 4 finish moves up. For '09 that would still move up 6 teams in D3 and 7 teams in D2 but it would only be winning teams and/or teams that showed the consistent ability to finish near the top. (Btw, it will be interesting to see how many of the D2 teams forced to move up actually ever play a D1 event. The going rate recently is about 50% which also seems to fly in the face of the PSP's goals here.)
As for players dropping ranks I have worked out a system. It has a pro floor and a floor for all other players. It takes into account the "success" of players in the ranks and has measures to limit possible abuses. It is predicated on my belief that some measure of flexibility with respect to rank will allow wider participation without harming competitive balance by keeping more players actively in the mix of pursuing competitive opportunities at appropriate levels of play. (Should any established league or ranking system have an interest I'll be happy to provide the details.)
The alternative is a completely redesigned classification & ranking system. Even so, it would necessarily look something like the current one and still wouldn't be able to address the populations of the divisions that the PSP is apparently trying to manipulate with the present system. In order to "fix" divisional disparities one must do two basic things; identify the causes and determine a methodology for dealing with the problem. For example, the PSP sees a dearth of upper division teams and their methodology is coercion and their identified cause is not enough upper division teams (which is a tautology) and their fix is to turn D2 teams into D1 teams and presto, plenty of d1 teams. (Or maybe not.)
My view is classification and ranking can't address the issue alone. Classification and ranking is only about the competitive integrity of the divisions. Other concerns require other answers. If coercion isn't the answer, what is? I'm thinking incentives. Give teams a reason or reasons to do what you'd like them to do. Here's a start: tie entry fees to paintball played. Since D2 and D1 now both play Race 2-5 their entries should be the same. Now there are no series prizes. Change that and award a D1 series prize package along with event prizes. These changes begin to reward excellence (higher division play) and motivate teams to move up if they think they can compete and at the same time removes the disincentive of higher entry fees for higher division play. There are, I'm sure, plenty of creative ways to achieve the desired goals. My choice would be to institute elements of all the options mentioned.
There you have it, kids.